Turning distress into an opportunity

Hare Krishna and pranam dear devotees,

We come into Krishna consciousness with a spiritual goal. Most of us are also looking a one-stop solution for all our material distress and anxieties and from one angle it is right to turn to Krishna for our material problems because Krishna is our only protector and shelter.

It is always challenging when devotees are visited by distress, but we can take these times to examine how much we’re able to apply the knowledge we have gained from reading and chanting.

 What is Distress?

Extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.

Krishna advises us to tolerate distress without getting disturbed

O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.

(Bg 2.14)

Seems easier said than done!

Even well placed devotees get surprised and bewildered when distress hits them. Why me? Why now? How  can I go through it? How can I help others who may be going through it? We can see it from multiple angles.

Uttama (good) – philosophical understanding

There are two kinds of activities, namely pious and impious. By executing pious activities one can gain facilities for higher material enjoyment, but due to impious activities one has to undergo severe distress. A devotee, however, is not interested in enjoyment or affected by distress. When he is prosperous he knows, “I am diminishing the results of my pious activities,” and when he is in distress he knows, “I am diminishing the reactions of my impious activities.” A devotee is not concerned with enjoyment or distress; he simply desires to execute devotional service. It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam that devotional service should be apratihatä, unchecked by the material conditions of happiness or distress.

(SB 4.12.13p)

But better than facing distress with a philosophical understanding is if we can connect our distressed condition directly with Krishna. Another reason is that devotees do not suffer from karmic reactions.

Ati Uttama (better): An impetus to remember Krishna

The word hari conveys various meanings, but the chief import of the word is that He (the Lord) vanquishes everything inauspicious and takes away the mind of the devotee by awarding pure transcendental love. By remembering the Lord in acute distress one can be free from all varieties of miseries and anxieties. Gradually the Lord vanquishes all obstacles on the path of devotional service of a pure devotee, and the result of nine devotional activities, such as hearing and chanting, becomes manifested.

(SB 1.7.10p)

Sarvottama (best): Krishna is curing me with bitter juice

The fact is that everything is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, manifested in varieties of energy. Ekam evādvitīyaṁ brahma. There is no second existence.

Those who are truly vipaścit, learned, are those who have reached the platform of understanding and observing the Supreme Personality of Godhead in any condition of life. Premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti (BS. 5.38). Learned devotees accept even conditions of distress as representing the presence of the Supreme Lord. When a devotee is in distress, he sees that the Lord has appeared as distress just to relieve or purify the devotee from the contamination of the material world. While one is within this material world, one is in various conditions, and therefore a devotee sees a condition of distress as but another feature of the Lord. tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo (SB 10.14.8).

A devotee, therefore, regards distress as a great favour of the Lord because he understands that he is being cleansed of contamination. Teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā mṛtyu-saṁsāra-sāgarāt (Bg. 12.7). The appearance of distress is a negative process intended to give the devotee relief from this material world, which is called mṛtyu-saṁsāra, or the constant repetition of birth and death.

To save a surrendered soul from repeated birth and death, the Lord purifies him of contamination by offering him a little distress. This cannot be understood by a nondevotee, but a devotee can see this because he is vipaścit, or learned. A nondevotee, therefore, is perturbed in distress, but a devotee welcomes distress as another feature of the Lord. Sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. A devotee can actually see that there is only the Supreme Personality of Godhead and no second entity. Ekam evādvitīyam. There is only the Lord, who presents Himself in different energies.

(SB 10.2.28p)

Sarvashreshta (topmost) : Advance devotee see distress as a blessing and welcome it

I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.

(SB 1.8.25)

Who are such devotees?

Those devotees who are in proper shelter, whose consciousness has evolved and who are steady and enthusiastic in their determination to advance in Krishna consciousness. Such devotees see all distress simply as a mercy of Sri Guru and Gauranga upon them. They have firm faith that Krishna knows what is best for their spiritual progress.

Can I align my consciousness like this?

This is obviously a very high and evolved consciousness but there is very simple and sublime spiritual solution for it. If we have a desire to see all challenges and distress in our life simply as a mercy of Guru and Krishna upon us then one of the option, shared by HG Srimati mataji, is to daily sing the bhajan gopinath, mama nivedana suno by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. By humbly praying for it and then singing this bhajan our consciousness will slowly but surely evolve, our heart will soften and then we can gradually come to realise that all distress is simply mercy of Srila Gurudeva upon me and one welcomes it with all his heart.

I pray that it helped.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Gopinath Mama Nivedana Suno

Sravanam kirtanam leads to Vishnu smaranam

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

Its summer time, the ideal time to get around churning some butter. Let us try to churn the following benediction given by Lord Narasimha to Prahlada maharaj on hearing their pastime.

य एतत्कीर्तयेन्मह्यं त्वया गीतमिदं नरः

त्वां च मां च स्मरन्काले कर्मबन्धात्प्रमुच्यते

ya etat kīrtayen mahyaṁ  tvayā gītam idaṁ naraḥ
tvāṁ ca māṁ ca smaran kāle karma-bandhāt pramucyate

One who always remembers your activities and My activities also, and who chants the prayers you have offered, becomes free, in due course of time, from the reactions of material activities.

 (SB 7.10.14p)

One who always remembers your activities and My activities also ( Srvanam Kirtanam)

A very direct understanding is to have regular Sravanam Kirtanam about the pastimes of Lord Narasimha and Prahlada. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to hear Prahlada maharaj’s pastimes repeatedly. We can also hear it from Srila Prabhupada, he gave numerous lectures glorifying Prahlada, listening to them repeatedly will undoubtedly instill a taste for the same. This is indeed our process Sravanam Kirtanam- we hear the glories and then we sing the glories!

Another way of looking at this is asking, “Who is Lord Narasimha?” Keshava dhritanaraharirupa! So Lord Narasimha is Krishna Himself, only in the form of a half man-half lion. So we can broaden our understanding of the above verse to further include ‘One who always remembers Krishna’s activities and the activities of His pure devotees’.

Where does Krishna Himself speak about His own self and His devotees? Bhagavad Gita. Which scripture speaks about pastimes of Krishna with His devotees? Srimad Bhagavatam. One cannot stress the importance of these two scriptures enough in the lives of all the devotees, irrespective of their level of realisation. In fact we may even add that one, but not the only, way to externally see a devotee’s attachment to Krishna, and his level of realisation, is by seeing how attached one is to specifically these two scriptures- Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita. We must, therefore, read them daily. Sravanam Kirtanam of Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.

and who chants the prayers you have offered

Krishna is a person and just as any person He has likes and dislikes. Among many other things Krishna likes is, He has a very strong liking for the prayers offered by His pure devotees. Since they are filled with immense love and attachment for Him as a person, He simply loves them.

One way to understand this line of the verse is obviously to read the devotionally enriched prayers offered by Prahlada in  Srimad Bhagavatam, they are there in SB 7.9.

Knowing again that Lord Narasimha is none other Krishna Himself, in a half man- half lion form, we can then expand the meaning to include all the prayers offered in Srimad Bhagavatam by Brahma ji, lord Siva, Vrtasura, Gajendra, Dhruva, it is full of so many wonderful prayers by surrendered devotees. We can read them regularly, Krishna likes to hear them! Sravanam Kirtanam.

Another way to look at this is going through prayers offered by our acharyas. This implies, we sing the bhajans of our acharyas as much as we can. Simply by developing the habit of daily singing bhajans of our acharyas we can receive their mercy and gradually our consciousness may be aligned with their mood. They have poured their heart in their bhajans. There is no other natural and easier way to get a peek in the hearts of our acharyas and also get our consciousness purified at the same time.  Let us make a habit to sing these bhajans to Thakurji daily! Manifold benefits and benedictions await us. Sravanam kirtanam 

becomes free, in due course of time, from the reactions of material activities

Lord Narasimha is declaring that the simple act of remembering His pastime with Prahlada maharaj and by reciting the prayers offered by Prahlada maharaj, one can become free from all reactions of material activities. All reactions, sinful and pious, would be gone! What will be left in our heart- remembrance of Krishna, His name, His form, His qualities and His pastimes! One becomes ‘jivan mukta’ (liberated in a material body) in this lifetime itself!  What exalted yogis fail to achieve by thousands of years of austerities and meditation, sincere and surrendered devotees can achieve it in this very lifetime, simply by hearing about Krishna and His devotees. This is the uniqueness of Bhakti yoga , specifically the process given by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This process is safe, certain and sublime. So sravanam kirtanam of Krishna leads us to Vishnu Smaranam in a very natural way.

What about the result of remembering Krishna’s pure devotee?

Jaya Gauranga : I remember one lady raised her hand after Prabhupada had finished a Bhagavad-gita class as she had a question. She asked, “In the Bhagavad-gita it is said if one thinks of Krishna at the time of death, one will go to Krishna. Now my question is, what if I think of you at the time of death? Will it have the same effect?”

Prabhupada didn’t answer right away. He closed his eyes for two or three seconds as if he was searching for the answer and then he smiled and said, “That is very nice.” He said, “Yes, it will have the same effect.”

(Memories Anecdotes of a Modern Day Saint – Volume 3 by Siddhanta Dasa)

I hope and pray that we could taste some butter from this churning.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Do devotees suffer karmic reactions?

7th April, 2017. Gurgaon.

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

I could not post the blog for a long time as life turned a bit busy, please forgive me for this laxity.

Yesterday morning I read the very beautiful, and famous, verse from Srimad Bhagavatam and now sharing the same with you. 

This particular chapter, SB 10.14, describes the Brahmā ji’s prayers to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Brahmā ji first praised the beauty of the Lord’s transcendental limbs and then declared that Krishna’s original identity of sweetness is even more difficult to comprehend than His opulence. And only by the devotional process of hearing and chanting transcendental sounds received from Vedic authorities can one realize the Personality of Godhead. It is fruitless to try to realize God through processes outside the scope of Vedic authority.

Brahmā  ji is praying to Lord Krishna:

My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble.

O almighty Lord, in the past many yogīs in this world achieved the platform of devotional service by offering all their endeavors unto You and faithfully carrying out their prescribed duties. Through such devotional service, perfected by the processes of hearing and chanting about You, they came to understand You, O infallible one, and could easily surrender to You and achieve Your supreme abode.

(SB 10.14.4-5)

Then comes the gem of a verse wherein Brahmā ji reveals that to go back to Godhead a devotee simply has to patiently tolerate his past karmic reactions in this lifetime, while sincerely & seriously practicing Krishna consciousness! This may sound too good to be true or too easy but these are the words from Srimad Bhagavatam, Amala Purana, spoken by Brahmā ji, who also happens to be the head of our sampradaya. Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura said that this verse describes Bhakti.

tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo
bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
hṛd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jīveta yo mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk

My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.

(SB 10.14.8)

In his purport Srila Prabhupada too reveals an ‘inside’ secret as to how even those apparent karmic reactions are also actually a favour by the most merciful Krishna. Many of us may have read this verse before but as we read and reread it our conviction for the scientific process of Krishna consciousness, and the amazing journey we are in, goes few notches higher. It also helps us appreciate how compassionate is Krishna towards His devotees.  And that only is Krishna silently working to get us back home but He is very much looking forward to see us soon.
Purport

Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī explains in his commentary that just as a legitimate son has to simply remain alive to gain an inheritance from his father, one who simply remains alive in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, following the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, automatically becomes eligible to receive the mercy of the Personality of Godhead. In other words, he will be promoted to the kingdom of God.

The word su-samīkṣamāṇa indicates that a devotee earnestly awaits the mercy of the Supreme Lord even while suffering the painful effects of previous sinful activities. Lord Kṛṣṇa explains in the Bhagavad-gītā that a devotee who fully surrenders unto Him is no longer liable to suffer the reactions of his previous karma. However, because in his mind a devotee may still maintain the remnants of his previous sinful mentality, the Lord removes the last vestiges of the enjoying spirit by giving His devotee punishments that may sometimes resemble sinful reactions. The purpose of the entire creation of God is to rectify the living entity’s tendency to enjoy without the Lord, and therefore the particular punishment given for a sinful activity is specifically designed to curtail the mentality that produced the activity. Although a devotee has surrendered to the Lord’s devotional service, until he is completely perfect in Kṛṣṇa consciousness he may maintain a slight inclination to enjoy the false happiness of this world. The Lord therefore creates a particular situation to eradicate this remaining enjoying spirit. This unhappiness suffered by a sincere devotee is not technically a karmic reaction; it is rather the Lord’s special mercy for inducing His devotee to completely let go of the material world and return home, back to Godhead.

A sincere devotee earnestly desires to go back to the Lord’s abode. Therefore he willingly accepts the Lord’s merciful punishment and continues offering respects and obeisances to the Lord with his heart, words and body. Such a bona fide servant of the Lord, considering all hardship a small price to pay for gaining the personal association of the Lord, certainly becomes a legitimate son of God, as indicated here by the words dāya-bhāk. Just as one cannot approach the sun without becoming fire, one cannot approach the supreme pure, Lord Kṛṣṇa, without undergoing a rigid purificatory process, which may appear like suffering but which is in fact a curative treatment administered by the personal hand of the Lord.

So we can appreciate how unique is our journey in Krishna Consciousness. How even the aspiring devotees remain under the direct shelter of the lotus feet of Krishna. We just need to remain sincere & serious, practice tolerance and be simple hearted. Then there is no faster route back to Godhead.

Now it is up to us to decide if sincerity, simplicity and tolerance are too high a price to pay for gaining the personal association of Lord?

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga

All glories to Srila Prabhupada

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Lectures with deep philosophy

Hare Krishna.

Till now, I would  always `judge’ devotees based on how they would give lectures. Similarly when some `simple’ lecture would be going on I would get impatient and would pray that Prabhu ji will soon discuss something important or `deep’. It is only recently that I realised how foolish I was, or rather I am, that most of the time the limitation is not with the speaker but with the listeners. An intelligent speaker always see who is the general audience, he then speaks according to what they can absorb rather than what only a few devotees can relish. I realised that the the austerity may be with the speaker who may wish to speak of deeper topics but has to control himself for the benefit of the majority of listeners. I touch my ears and promise myself never to judge devotees based on their lectures.

I also realised that  all the limitation is within me if I can’t get taste out of simple topics.

All glories to the ever merciful Vaishanavas.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Power of prayer

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Hare Krishna.

I wrote in one of my previous blog that how I chant but do not pray to Lord so regularly.

Yesterday I was wondering why I pray so less. And this too when so many devotees   instructed me in the past to pray whenever I went to them with some difficulty in my spiritual progress. I had no clear answer. It is more bewildering when I look back and see that Srila Prabhupada, Lord Balarama, Guru Maharaj, whomsoever I prayed, those prayers have always been answered.

Few days back HG Chitralekha Devi Dasi Mataji sent me below mail. Mataji does a wonderful service by sending daily a pastime of Srila Prabhupada,  one can subscribe it at srila-prabhupada-said@googlegroups.com.

Once, Srila Prabhupada gave a class at the Bhaktivedanta Manor in which he told the audience, “The difference between you and me is that you can fall down but I cannot fall down.” Later, after the class, Srila Prabhupada was praying in front of the deities, and one disciple asked him, “What were you praying?” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “I was praying that I may never fall down.” The disciple responded, “But in your talk you said that you can never fall down.” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “Yes, because I am always praying never to fall down, therefore I can never fall down.”

I could not keep these words from Srila Prabhupada’s away from my thoughts. Then I realised that this is the trick, to pray and pray continuously . I have to always depend on the mecry of senior Vaishanavas, acaryas and my Lord so I don’t fall. I realised it but didn’t put into practice.

Last Friday during at a prog at Sumeet Prabhhuji’s home I suggested a mataji that she should pray to Krishna. Later, I again thought why I am not praying so often, do I consider myself so advanced that I don’t need to pray. The answer was negative but it prodded me to start praying immediately, without any more delay or thinking.  It took association of devotees to finally get me started.

All Glories to merciful devotees !

I also realised that whole Srimad Bhagavatam is full of wonderful prayers and if those exalted devotees needed to pray then what chance do I have to progress in my devotional life without praying continuously. This process also helps me keep a check on my ego. I know that any progress in my material and spiritual life is due to mercy and not by own efforts.

Due to the mercy of Guru Maharaj,  Srila Prabhupada and association of devotees, I have started to pray regularly and I pray at the feet of all the vaishanava to please bless me that I never forget to pray.

I will share some of my experiences of praying in my next blog.

All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga.

Wonderful Devotees of Surat

Hare Krishna.

image

During his last trip I told Guru Maharaja that we hardly get to spend any time with him, even when he comes to Gurgaon he is always so busy. I mentioned how Priti remarked the other day that it will be better to take a flight with Guru Maharaja from Kolkatta to Delhi. He invited us to fly with him to Surat and spend time with him. At first I thought he must be joking but then knowing him a little I knew he would not make any casual remark. We had renovations happening at our new apartment, we gave the labour the weekend off, sent the kids to grandparents and off we went to Surat. Guru Maharaj met us at the airport, he was flying from Patna. Anand Prabhu was with him, joining for us for Surat.

I didn’t get to sit with Guru Maharaja as they had checked in before us.

Surat holds a special place in my heart. I was here in last January to attend Guru Maharaj’s seminar on Brahma Samhita. I’d stayed at Sri Sri Radha Damodar temple, its right on the bank of river Tapti. The temple has very beautiful deities and has wide open areas around it.  I was very fortunate to get association of a very senior devotee HG Nanda Vraja Dasa from Auckland that time, as his room partner. He gave me many practical suggestions to improve my sadhna bhakti, which I followed and reaped the benefits.

While we landed at Surat airport and waited for the luggage to arrive, Guru Maharaj walked straight out to a loud sankirtan by devotees. They were outside but every one in the airport could hear their enthusiastic kirtan. It was a rousing welcome.

We too were very warmly welcomed by the devotees when we came out. We were staying at a devotee’s home in the same complex where Guru Maharaja was staying so it was very convenient.

All the devotees were very warm & welcoming, within half an hour Guru maharaja was giving his first class. From Friday evening till Sunday evening, he gave classes almost 4-5 times a day. And in times between his preaching, traveling and meetings he was served like a king  by the local devotees. Guru Maharaja stayed with us for a day before leaving for Patna, we were to shame by the hospitality of Surat devotees.  Everything was A grade and very well planned.  We promised ourselves to rise to their benchmark whenever Guru Maharaja visits us next time.

The devotees themselves seemed a very tightly knit group led by HG Mukund Priya Prabhuji and his wife. They left no stone unturned for Maharaja. They were ably supported by other local devotees. It all seemed like a clipping from one of the Suraj Barjatia’s big festivity film scenes with a spiritual twist and Guru maharaja at the center.

I don’t know how those two days passed but they seemed more like three or four days as something was always happening. We visited Sri Sri Radha Damodar temple and took darshan of the beautiful deities on Sunday.

I bring very warm memories of this trip and will cherish them for a long period. We got constant association of Guru Maharaj and met such warm, happy and enthusiastic group of devotees. My humble obeisances and many thanks to Vijay prabhuji, Mukesh Prabhuji,  Vishambhar Prabhuji and so many other prabhujis and matajis whose name I don’t remember but whose hospitality we enjoyed shamelessly.

I will discuss another beautiful realisation at Surat in a separate blog.

All Glories to Guru Maharaja.

All Glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.